Rivalism and tribalism are often seen as the lifeblood of a sport that is often about so much more than just the actual football. Rafa Benítez isn’t one for that line of thinking.
The former Liverpool manager — fan favorite Liverpool manager! — has been confirmed as the new manager at Everton today. He’s only the second person ever to manage both big Merseyside clubs, and the first after William Edward Barclay, who was the first manager for both Everton and then a few years later Liverpool, over 125 years ago. (Liverpool were founded when Everton moved out of Anfield to Goodison after a disagreement over rent.)
We can confirm Rafael Benitez has been appointed as our new manager.— Everton (@Everton) June 30, 2021
Benítez was perhaps the most unwelcome managerial appointment ever at Chelsea back in late November 2012, crossing a rivalry based mostly on the pitch. Now he crosses a rivalry that is probably the strongest in all of English football, and is rooted strongly in history and geography.
As with Chelsea, prior comments from Benítez have been quick to resurface. He had once derided the Blues (of London) for waving flags at Champions League matches. That same year, 2007, he called the Blues (of Liverpool) a “small club” despite the fact that they were one of the six (seven, at the time) ever-presents in the Premier League. Maybe he’s been taking notes from old enemy José Mourinho.
"Sometimes when you are a big club, a very small club comes to your stadium. Tottenham got a point they shouldn't.” Jose Mourinho, 2004— SUKAN STAR (@sukanstar) June 30, 2021
"Everton put eight or nine men behind the ball and defended deep but that’s what small clubs do." Rafa Benitez, 2007 pic.twitter.com/StGmJTyntV
Needless to say, reaction to this move has not been one of universal approval, on either side, but business is business, right? Benítez’s affinity for the area is also widely known, having made his home there since 2004 (despite appointments all over the world), which will have certainly contributed to his decision.
Either way, this could be interesting. Then again, knowing Rafa’s brand of football, not really.